TOPAS (Tour Operator Product Availability Standard)

The provision of accurate and up-to-date product availability information is critical to the operation of the modern travel industry.

Distributing availability information by Fax, email or by using “system polling” services is costly, inefficient, time and resource consuming.  In addition, these mechanisms have been found to be incapable of providing the comprehensive spread of product availability (including late offers) needed in today’s fast-moving marketplace.

To help address these issues, members of the Travel Technology Initiative (TTI), including four major tour companies and four data vendors, have jointly developed TOPAS (Tour Operator Product Availability Standard)

TOPAS provides a standard for the transmission of availability data between tour operators and travel agents or intermediaries (e.g. data vendors).  The information can be used by travel agents to locate availability more quickly, thus reducing cost of sale and increasing turnover.  Data vendors should also see similar benefits as “blind” availability searching is replaced by productive searching of a standardised set of data items.

TOPAS data can be provided by a tour operator for a single travel agency or intermediary, or concurrently by one operator to several agents or intermediaries.

The use of standard data items allows recipients to compare like-for-like data from different tour operators, thereby allowing the best deals to be identified.

Typically, TOPAS is used to exchange data between host computer systems.  A parser program is required at the recipient end, in order to process the incoming TOPAS data into a format suitable for use by local applications.

The TOPAS definition sits above the user application and has no influence on the presentation of data at the receiving system.

TOPAS components

TOPAS is made up of the following components:

  • TOPAS data definitions
    These describe the data items which are used to provide availability information.  These definitions help ensure the standardisation of the data which is transmitted.
  • AVLABL EDI file format
    The TOPAS data definitions describe the content of the availability file, but not its format.  TTI support the use of the AVLABL EDI file format for the distribution of availability data.  Use of the AVLABL EDI file format helps ensure the integrity of the data which is transmitted.
  • Ambassador toolkit
    This is a suite of applications, developed by Foresight Corp and provided by TTI, to assist organisations in their use of the AVLABL EDI file format.

File types

TOPAS defines four availability file types:

  • Earlies
    Provides inclusive tour (IT) availability for all seasons on sale outside the “lates” period.  This is typically three, but for short periods four, seasons.
  • Lates
    Provides inclusive tour (IT) availability within the “lates” period, typically 10-12 weeks before departure.
  • Flight- or seat-only
    Provides seat-only availability for all seasons on sale.
  • Accommodation only
    Provides accommodation-only availability for all seasons on sale.

Benefits of TOPAS

TOPAS provides a number of benefits:

  • Improved standardisation and accuracy of data.
  • The use of standard data items allows recipients to compare like-for-like data from different tour operators, thereby allowing the best deals to be identified.
  • Primary key fields within the TOPAS data allow individual holidays to be easily identified and extracted from a database.
  • The use of a data standard offers the benefit of optimum development and implementation time for application interfaces.
  • There are significant economies to be enjoyed by using common formats because a single development covers the interface requirements for many trading partners. For example, data recipients can develop a single parser program for use in processing data from multiple providers.
  • Standard data and messaging formats are particularly relevant in a multi-channel environment where ease of data collection, manipulation and dissemination is paramount.

Further information

Limited technical assistance with the specification is available free of charge to TTI members. Please contact us to take advantage of this benefit

A copy of the documentation may be obtained from our FILE DOWNLOADS area